World Series: Wild walkoff obstruction call gives Cardinals 5-4 win: Griffin
ST. LOUIS-Obstruction has never before ended a World Series game in 56 walkoffs. But Game 3 between the Cardinals and Red Sox became a wild 5-4 Redbirds win on just such a call, reaching an unlikely ending that started with a wild throw from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That miscue with the ball leaking away from third baseman Will Middlebrooks led to a wild, on-field, game-over argument by manager John Farrell, finally climaxing in a gathering of umpires at a rare media conference to offer their interpretation of this seldom-used rule presided over by MLB exec and ex-Yankee Joe Torre. Go figure.
The umpires insisted that intent (to obstruct) does not matter. Red Sox supporters emotionally claim not only was there no intent, but that their man was not anywhere near the runner. The footage of this disputed horizontal pas-de-deux featuring runner Allen Craig and a desperately-seeking-equilibrium Will Middlebrooks will be dissected and broken down by New Englanders more than anything since the Zapruder Film.
“Just to go over the rule quickly,” crew chief John Hirschbeck began. “Obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a runner when not in the act of fielding a ball. It does not have to be intent. Once he has the opportunity to field the ball he can no longer, in any way, obstruct the runner.”
Third base umpire Jim Joyce, he of the botched out call on Armando Galarraga's near perfect game, ruled obstruction on Middlebrooks after he dove towards the errant Salty throw by his catcher trying to keep the ball in front of him and the game alive. He stayed on the ground near the baseline, tangled and sprawled.
Craig who had advanced to third late just as Molina was cut down at the plate by Dustin Pedroia, scrambled to his feet and became tangled with Middlebrooks. A stumbling Craig, operating on an injured foot that had disabled him, was gunned down at the plate -- but the Joyce call had already been made, the die irrevocably cast. Home plate umpire Dana DeMuth spread his arms wide to signal Craig safe despite the tag. Truth is if he had not gone home, Craig would not have been awarded the plate. He had to go, even if out.
“I was on the leftfield line,” Hirschbeck said. “Immediately after we got off the field into our locker room we congratulated Jim and said, 'Great call.'I could see it all in front of me as it happened. That was our first reaction when we got in the locker room.”
The Cardinals have now taken a 2-1 lead in the Series and play the next two games at home. Recent history is squarely on the side of the Redbirds. Over the last 12 Fall Classics that have been tied at a game apiece, 11 of the 12 Game 3 winners have gone on to capture the World Series.
It was a riveting major-league chess match in Game 3 of the World Series, exquisite ebbs and flows dictated by National League rules. Manager John Farrell's Red Sox twice battled back from two runs down to tie the game at Busch Stadium in front of a record crowd of 47,432. But the bottom line is that Farrell cannot be let off the hook for managing what was ultimately a horrible game.
How could he end up with three hitters still on the bench, including Mike Napoli, in the top of the ninth, with Brandon Workman hitting for himself in a tie game.
“In hindsight, probably should have double-switched after Salty made the final out of the previous inning, with Workman coming in the game” Farrell admitted. “I felt like if we get into an extended situation, I held (Napoli) back in the event that spot came up again. In hindsight having Workman hit against (Trevor) Rosenthal is a mismatch. I recognize it, but we needed more than one inning out of Workman.”
The ignored double switch would have brought David Ross in to catch batting in the ninth spot, with Workman replacing Saltalamacchia batting seventh. But the double swith is a National League thing and other than inter-league, Farrell doesn't have to worry about it. But there were other substitutions that proved sketchy.
How about hitting for starting shortstop Stephen Drew, then moving Bogaerts over to shortstop and leaving the pinch-hitter Middlebrooks in the game. Farrell has been frustrated with Drew's offence. Bogaerts will likely play shortstop for the foreseeable future. The first ball hit to Bogaerts at short was an infield hit in the seventh and the big hit that followed was a two-run double by Matt Holliday past a flat-footed Middlebrooks. Then of course came the fateful ninth.
And even in that fateful ninth, with one out and first base open, runners on second and third, why not walk Jon Jay to load the bases for a force at the plate with weak hitting Pete Kozma and rookie Kolten Wong up next. Instead, Saltalamacchia took the throw from Pedroia and put the tag on Molina, then had to lift up and fire to third.
The Sox had rallied twice from two-run deficits and hung around in the game early on when it looked like they could have been blown away behind a struggling Jake Peavy. The second Sox rally in the top of the eighth started with a single and a hit batter. Farrell started the two runners to stay out of a double play. It worked, leaving first base open with one out. Even though he represented the go-ahead run, Matheny chose to walk Ortiz. He then brought in his closer Trevor Rosenthal for a five-out save.
The key play in the Sox rally that led to the tie came on a hard one-hop grounder by Daniel Nava to new second baseman Kolten Wong, who had entered on a Matheny double switch. Ortiz, the runner, believing the ball had been caught, was heading back to first. Wong had left his feet to make the play. Instead of throwing to first for the second out, then the Cards getting Ortiz as the third out to end the inning. Instead, he went to second for the traditional double play attempt, not even close, and a run scored still with two out. The reverse DP would have removed the force, but have left the Cards still holding the lead at 4-3 into the ninth. Bogaerts then singled and the game was tied.
“We were close to having Trevor come in and get the double play,” Matheny said. “Didn't work out. Next thing you know another bouncer gets through. It can happen fast.”
The Cardinals young arms continue to impress. The 25-year-old starter, Joe Kelly was perfect through three but ran into trouble in his next three innings, removed with one out in the sixth.
“I think I did pretty good,” Kelly said. “It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and I had a great time out there, having fun, just to get a chance to pitch in the World Series. It's definitely a childhood dream. I was out there having a blast.”
Matheny allowed Kelly to start the sixth, which in hindsight may have been a mistake. He walked Shane Victorino, then after a vicious line drive out by Pedroia, he went to the pen, bringing in lefthander Randy Choate. Minus the exaggerated infield shift, Ortiz lined a hard grounder into right, sending the runner to third. Victorino scored on a single by Nava off Seth Maness. The game was tied 2-2 and the ultimate decision came down to the length and depth of the two bullpens...and a little bit of obstruction.